The Price of Glitter

The season of goodwill does not come cheap to us in the UK, the Huffington Post recorded last year that we spent £312 per child on presents on average.  I will not be sharing that disturbing news with my children.

The growth of the shadowy virtual Bitcoin market has made the whole concept of money seem almost surreal and we less and less see `real’ money as we often buy our goods with plastic cards. 

Britain has ended its relationship with the `gold standard’ so that our currency is no longer linked to the amount of gold the government holds but to less tenuous concepts of the economy itself.

People were originally paid in food stuffs that they could use or barter.  The Roman army was paid a `Salary’, that is, an amount of valuable salt on a month basis, however, coinage is incredibly ancient in origin too.

Payment was made with gold or silver coins that could be weighed; however, cheaper metals could be added that could devalue the currency and accurate scales needed to be kept.

King Croesus
King Croesus

The problem of creating a reliable currency that could be trusted was resolved in the small kingdom of Lydia on the coast of today’s Turkey.

Lydian king Croesus founded a Royal Mint, and coins that could be trusted were produced with the king’s own image on them.

The kingdom became rich as its currency became trusted throughout the region but it eventually became part of the Persian Empire defeat in battle in 546 BC.

The Greek Historian Herodotus writes a wonderful account of the life of Croesus as a moral tale.

Gold mint
Britanniarum Gold Coin

Royal Mints, however, remained and eventually they arrived in England producing the Saxon Sceat in 883 AD.  The Sceat, much like the modern Euro found acceptance around Europe.  After the Norman Conquest, kings continued to control the money supply, sometimes with difficulty.  There has been a constant temptation to forge or to cheapen the coin with poor materials or shave off the edges.  In 1124, King Henry the First interrupted his Christmas to cut off the right hand and one testicle from 94 men charged with devaluing the coinage.

History reports that there was little more trouble during his reign.  Periods of trouble such as the Civil War led to poor quality coins followed by attempts to regain confidence in money again.

Over the longer term, money has always been a vulnerable asset.  Goodwill however is as valuable as ever.

Have a lovely holiday season.

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